Every April, I present Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to my senior classes. The beloved Pope’s teaching on sexuality is perhaps one of the Church’s best kept secrets. I ask the students to mention our current topic to their parents and most return to class explaining that their parents have never heard of the Theology of The Body. But the parents are the least of my problems. I must first sell this teaching of the Church to the students in my class.
Most young people understand and can explain what the Church teaches, but following the teaching becomes a different matter. Society and the media have sculpted its citizens to follow their instincts rather that the Law of the Gift. Karol Wojtyla defined the Law of the Gift as “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, can fully find himself only through a sincere gift of himself.” Most people live by the philosophy “If it’s available, I should take all that I can.” We seldom think about the long-term consequences in the world of instant gratification.
Most members of the younger generation rely on physical attraction as they enter each relationship. This sounds normal at first until we realize that they prefer to delve into sexual intimacy before truly coming to know his or her partner. The “hook up” culture has made sexual encounters available at the very beginning of the relationship. They refuse to make commitments until after they have past the point of no return. I recently documented the new dating ritual in my book, The Complete Christian:
“Dating has evolved through the years and it is interesting to see how young people approach this process. My students explain the steps of dating as:
- Talking to him or her. Two people test the “waters”. They establish a comfort zone between each other. They text one another and write to each other via the computer. This becomes a period of getting to know a person before there is any discussion of going out together.
- Hooking up. This is a purely physical stage of the relationship. The two people are not exclusively in a relationship at this point. During this part of the relationship a person decides whether they are sufficiently attracted to the person.
- Being together. The couple does various activities with each other as they enter an exclusive relationship. Although “together”, this stage allows each of the partners to exit the relationship when they feel it is time to move on.
- Dating (Going Out). Both people have committed to the relationship. They have reached an “official” exclusiveness in this stage. The world now knows that they are a couple.
The dating ritual of young people today demonstrates their fear of getting hurt. We ease into our relationships because we worry about rejection. Failure to take risks in our relationships can paralyze us.” (The Complete Christian, Basile, St. Paul’s /Alba House
Unfortunately, one of the greatest gifts that God gives us is distorted by many young people because of his or her pursuit of instant gratification or an attempt at shielding themselves from loneliness. His or her sexuality, which should be an incredible exclusive gift to be unwrapped by a future spouse, has been given freely away to basic strangers.
The chastity talk should begin during the grammar school years. Use any opportunity you can to demonstrate the pitfalls of sexual recreation. Teach your students about the boundaries that he or she needs to establish, before an embrace or other passionate moment tempts him or her to squander the gift of their sexuality. Unveil the body as a beautiful gift.